Campus restaurant delivery launches Monday

Kira Lerner

For those rainy, cold nights when even Burger King seems too much of a trek, a Double Whopper with cheese is now only a click away.

Wildcat Express Delivery, an online food delivery service started by Northwestern Student Holdings, officially launches Monday. NU students on and off campus can log on to the delivery Web site, place an order and have a student driver deliver the food from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Restaurants currently participating include Chipotle, Panera Bread, Burger King, Cosi, Zoba Noodle Bar and Cafe J.K. Sweets – none of which currently offer their own delivery.

The service, modeled after a similar business at Princeton University, has been more than a year in the making, said Louise Huterstein, president of Wildcat Express Delivery.

“It is such an unbelievably gratifying feeling to know that this Web site and service didn’t exist before, and through a year of hard work, it now exists,” the Communication junior said. “I knew the campus deserved to have a service like this, and I really didn’t want to rest until I made it happen.”

The delivery service will not start charging a delivery fee until next year, but the menu prices on the Web site are higher than the restaurant’s prices because of an added service fee and tax.

Jae Shim, co-owner of Cafe J.K. Sweets, said he worries the service’s higher prices could hurt his business.

Bibimbap, Cafe J.K. Sweets’ most popular dish, costs $7.25 in the restaurant. WED charges $9.43, a 30 percent increase in price.

“This is no good for us because students will think our prices are higher than we charge,” Shim said.

Wildcat Express Delivery’s home page does not currently mention the service charge added onto the prices. Huterstein said the extra charge is necessary to maintain the business.

“The operation cost for such a service is very high,” she said. “We’re not charging students a delivery fee, but obviously we still have to pay to operate the service.”

All of the delivery service’s profits are funneled back into the holding company or are used to pay student drivers and operators. The holding company generates revenue and reinvests it into other student entrepreneurial initiatives, which in the past have included programs such as NUTutors.

The Web site currently offers a catering service, which delivers food from any Evanston restaurant to student organizations. Ravi Umarji, co-CEO of Northwestern Student Holdings, said he is excited to introduce another service to directly benefit students.

“We want all of our businesses to enhance campus life,” the McCormick junior said. “This will hopefully do that.”

Weinberg freshman Janna Kaplan said she frequently orders delivery and would consider using the delivery service, even given the service charge.

“In Elder we’re so far from Evanston, so people order food all the time,” she said.

The service also will increase business for the restaurants involved, Huterstein said.

“The current economic situation definitely helped us out because we’re adding a service to the restaurants as well,” she said. “At this point, any way they can get extra revenue is very much appreciated.”

Shim said he is not confident the delivery service will generate more revenue for Cafe J.K. Sweets but added that he is willing to experiment.

“Business is very slow,” he said. “We have nothing to lose.”

Joe Lischwe, chief operating officer of Northwestern Student Holdings, said he hopes the delivery service will appeal to all NU students. When Wildcat Express Delivery conducted market research last year, he said they were surprised to find that South Campus students expressed greater interest in the service than North Campus students.

“All students get tired of dorm food and maybe don’t have time to cook,” the Weinberg junior said. “(The service) makes life just a little easier for students.”

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Related: Wildcat Express Delivery Web site